With Everton struggling to keep the ball out of the goal in recent matches, a lot of fans have been voicing their concerns over how the Toffees are performing without Yerry Mina in the side. I decided to take a deeper, statistical look into whether Everton do really miss the Colombian giant.
Everton’s expected goals against (xGA) from setpieces this season is 4.3 which is fifth worst in the Premier League. However, the Blues have conceded 6 goals from those chances, joint second worst in the league.
Last season, assistant Davide Ancelotti was in charge of setpieces and had the Blues both defending them well (7th best) and also creating chances from in the attacking half (3rd best). This season, the Toffees are only 14th best in the attacking phase, and as previously mentioned, 15th in defending setpieces.
There are a couple more likely reasons for that. Key among those would be Dominic Calvert-Lewin being out with injury. Although an attacker, you will always see him in Everton’s eighteen-yard box on defending set pieces and naturally without him in the mix, we’re going to concede more goals from these situations. However, when Mina plays, even without Calvert-Lewin, we look a lot more comfortable defending these situations.
In fact, we are yet to concede a goal from a corner this season when Mina is on the pitch. This is, of course, due to his superior aerial ability. His aerial win percentage this season backs that up, with the Colombian winning 76% of his aerial duels. If you compare this to his centre back partners, Michael Keane, Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate, they have 63.5%, 50% and 46.2% respectively. This is a significant difference, especially with the latter two and for Godfrey and Holgate it is particularly concerning how poorly they compete in the air.
Looking at Mina in other areas, he is dribbled past on average 0.59 times per game. This was significantly better last season as well, averaging just 0.14 per game. Only Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin average less this year and with them being attacking players, this is expected. A lot of tall, physical defenders seem to lack in these sort of areas as they are often slow and not very coordinated, but the stats also back up how good he is when the ball is on the floor.
He also averages 6.67 clearances per game which is the 2nd highest in the team. Stats like these will come as little surprise to people as we look so much more assured when he is on the pitch. You will often see his centre back colleagues performing at a higher level when partnered with Mina which is testament to his ability. Whenever either of the three senior centre backs are paired up without him, there is a significant drop in defensive performance from the Everton side.
An area in which Everton need to improve throughout the whole team is giving away soft fouls which often lead to an opposition chance created from a set piece. This is an area in which once again, Mina is ahead of his teammates for. He has committed just one foul all season, with Godfrey, Keane and Holgate managing thirteen between them. Only Jordan Pickford has managed less fouls out of the players to have played more than one game. This is particularly concerning from Mason Holgate, who has managed five fouls on his own despite playing notably less than the rest of the centre backs. This was increasingly evident against Tottenham in our most recent match, when he received a straight red card for a terrible tackle late on.
Moving on to how Everton perform overall without Mina in the side, it’s equally worrying how drastically our performances drop. When he’s been in the team this season, we average 1.83 points per game. This is the highest in the squad of those who have played more than three games. Averaging this many points over the season would have us in fifth place. Instead, after missing him regularly, we sit in eleventh. The only loss Everton have had this season with him in the team was the three-goal drubbing at Villa Park in September.
Not only this season though, this trend without Mina has been going on for a couple of years now. I’m not sure on the up-to-date stats but a couple of weeks ago Sky Sports reported that over the last two Premier League seasons, our win percentage with him in the team was 57%. Without him however, this was an extremely concerning 24%. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that’s a significant difference. Moreover, we average 1.7 goals conceded without him, compared to 1.1 with and 0.9 points per game compared to 1.9.
The main concern I have about Mina is not his footballing ability, but his ability to be on the pitch. After delving deeper into the statistics, it confirmed what a lot of Everton fans already knew — we are substantially worse without the man mountain in the starting eleven. There are question marks over whether he is going to sign a new contract which is due to expire in 2023. He’s also currently the highest earner at the club and with the financial restraints we are currently faced with, could it be time to cash in? As important and valuable as he is to Rafa Benitez’s squad, he is extremely injury prone. If he was able to play thirty plus games a season I’d be demanding a new five-year deal but it’s simply not happened in recent years.
I believe the centrehalf position is somewhere we should be looking to improve in the summer. In a recent article, we looked at some central defenders who will be free agents this summer. A physical leader in the defence who in an ideal world would partner Yerry Mina, but if push comes to shove and he has to leave then someone who can command the defence as well as our Colombian currently does. There’s often question marks over all three centre backs that partner Mina, so signing another of his calibre wouldn’t be the worst idea even if the defender were to stay at the club.